Gunga Dan and the Arctic meltdown: Tonight
If you have satellite TV or some cable system other than Comcast, you might want to take a look at a "Dan Rather Reports" special on the warming of Earth's Arctic ice, airing at 8 p.m. tonight on HD Net.
HD Net's PR operation contacted me precisely yesterday, offering to send me the program's DVD, presumably so I could watch it and write something about it before the show aired. I'm fast, but not that fast.
Consequently, I can't vouch for Dan's work, but the topic is endlessly fascinating. Record melting of the Arctic ice cap this summer opened the fabled Northwest Passage to shipping for a few weeks in September. It's a sea route across the northern edge of North America that has been ice bound throughout the whole of human civilization. Plenty of sailors died trying to sail through there and find the short route to the riches of the Orient.
Now, as the planet warms, that sea passage is beginning to open up, with a range of consequences from the prospect of cheaper ocean shipping between China and the US East Coast and Europe during a portion of the northern summer, to disruption of arctic habitats for animals and humans alike. It also opens the prospect of a political and military contest for control of the northern ocean and its resources.
HD Net's PR types say Rather traveled 450 miles north of the arctic circle aboard a Canadian ice breaker to report on the changes at the top of the globe. He speaks with scientists studying the Arctic, to government officials in the U.S, and Canada who are wrestling with the diplomatic and military issues, and historians who recall centuries of adventurers who tried to explore and exploit the region. He also meets with Inuit people who say the warmup is forever changing their lives.
At one point in the report, a former US Coast Guard officicer tells Rather the US is unprepared for this new reality: "We are not prepared because we don't have the vessels to operate there. We are not prepared because we've not signed the treaty that gives us legal standing to participate in the diplomatic discussions. We've not confronted and faced up to the reality of climate change in the Arctic. Not many Americans, I think, appreciate the huge stakes that exist in the Arctic region."
Since I enjoy only Comcast at home, I won't be seeing this program before you. So if you watch, come back here, leave a comment and let us know what you thought of it. Inquiring minds want to know.